The art market is based on conflicting contradictions: capitalist & art values. There is not a right recipe and the game rules are not fair. Here a pragmatic approach on how to price my art as an artist.
Artists who want to make their mark on the art world are torn by two very contradicting values: artistic integrity and practicality. If it were up to artists, their art would be priceless. But of course, the world doesn’t work this way. Now, I’m not saying give up your artistic worth; instead, it’s better to rethink the way you view your art.
Artworks are Products and Should Be Priced Properly
Your artwork is a piece of your soul, a product you created with your own means and talents. In this sense, it’s best to price it in the most proper way possible. The first step is to compare yourself to artists with a similar style and see how much they charge.
As with any market R&D, taking a hard look at your competitors and seeing how much they charge for the same amount is a good way to get a feel of the market as a whole, not to mention inform you of your own pricing.
Check out online platforms and local galleries, but if you’re doing the latter, have someone else recon for you. After all, if the price is right, you might just want to exhibit in that gallery and you don’t want to reveal your hand too early!
Art Prices Differ Per Season
Just like any capitalist market, the art world also has different prices for different seasons: current trends will dictate the price of different types of art. Consider where your art falls, and price it accordingly.
This doesn’t mean, of course, that your artwork that might have used a trend from last season means it is now worthless: it’s best to keep that in the back burner for now and reveal it later on when the trend reflects the style you used.
Pay attention to market trends and create products that reflect it. Any products you don’t use for this season can be added to your back catalogue for future use (P.S. ALWAYS maintain a catalogue for people to view regardless of the season).
Art Prices Aren’t Arbitrary
Yes, art can be subjective, but its pricing isn’t: just like any market, pricing your art work follows different trends and varying formulas. Remember: most galleries will take up to 50% of your profits as commission, so when you price your art, expect only half of that to go to you.
Of that half, you’ll take into consideration how much you spent to create that piece of art specifically: what was the price of the canvas, the paint, brushes, and other materials you used? Are there art school loans you need to pay off? Get that number and add a healthy profit margin (something between 20% to 50%).
Pricing your art is also a humbling experience: that profit margin we just mentioned is also dependent on who you are, your reputation in the art world, and how good your art is. Before you place a price tag, take a good and hard look at yourself, your art, and your career, and determine whether or not a 50% profit on sales is something you deserve.
Defend Your Worth
That being said, once you do arrive at a price, defend it all costs. Many people are going to try and drive your price down and they’ll use different tactics from straight-up bargaining to demeaning you and your art. Don’t let it get to you.
If a buyer wants to bargain, that’s okay, that’s part of the business. Set a minimum profit margin that you’re comfortable with and make that your final offer. Do not let any comments about your experience (or lack thereof), or your talent (again, or lack thereof) be a deciding factor for you: only you can determine your worth as an artist, and you should never let anyone tell you otherwise.
But perhaps the best way to price your work?
Ask a Professional
There are plenty of art critics, gallery owners, and art dealers out there who know exactly how much people should charge for their art. That’s because, while they may not be artists in and of themselves, they’re experts in the business side of the art world, and therefore, the best people to speak about when it comes to selling.
Art dealers themselves will also probably take a small commission on top of the gallery’s commission: but they’ll also be responsible for marketing you and adding an even bigger premium on both your art and your reputation as an artist.
Remember: wanting to profit from your art is not ‘selling out’: if this was the case, anytime an artist even considered their audience’s reaction when creating their work is a case of selling out. Art should be expensive, but only because it was painstakingly crafted by an artist, and that effort and talent should be priced accordingly.